When the Denver Broncos return to work in earnest to prepare for their Week 11 opponent, the Los Angeles Chargers, it’s not a stretch to think a large pocket of Broncos Country hopes there’ll be a new man in charge.
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The Broncos’ November 14 home loss to the Philadelphia Eagles has seemingly taken the air out of the 2021 season, and there seems to be no way to fix the inconsistencies — barring a change on the sidelines.
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Head coach Vic Fangio has been known to be unaware of play- and game clocks, and seems to have blind faith in Tom McMahon, who oversees a putrid special teams, but the veteran coach has to be aware that the clock could be winding down on his employment.
The Broncos are still one of the premiere franchises in the NFL, despite the recent on-field struggles. So, when the dust settles on the team’s ownership drama, the Broncos will likely garner a price tag that would be the highest in North American professional sports. And when ownership is finally transferred, it’s highly plausible that the new boss will want his own lead man.
Denver’s uneven play in 2021 certainly can’t be good for Fangio’s job security, as the Broncos are slowly slipping into irrelevancy since Peyton Manning retired in 2016.
Should general manager George Paton decide to make the switch at head coach, there wouldn’t be a shortage of interested suitors. Cecil Lammey, of DenverFan.com, noted that the list of choices could be extensive, hashing out his top candidates.
Topping that list was current Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn.
Lammey offered that the prospect of hiring Quinn is real, because of the history the former Atlanta Falcons head coach has with Paton. The two worked together during their days with the Miami Dolphins, noted Lammey, adding that Quinn’s pedigree is very solid — including a Super Bowl appearance while he was steering the Falcons.
Another key component, Lammey believes, is that “Quinn has a previous history with Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.” That little nugget could have free-agency implications in 2022, as the future Hall of Fame quarterback may be seeking a new address.
The Broncos could have another Cowboys’ coach on their radar, as current offensive coordinator Kellen Moore could be a consideration. Moore, a former Bronco himself — for Boise State — spent a few years as a backup for the Cowboys, but made the switch to coaching shortly after his playing career ended. He was known as an intelligent quarterback, and now as a play-caller, he’s an innovator. He could be just what the sagging Broncos need to jumpstart and utilize all that untapped offensive weaponry.
Moore was the quarterbacks coach for the Cowboys in 2018, and was then promoted to coordinator in 2019. He’s a fast riser who has had a big influence on Cowboys’ Pro Bowl quarterback Dak Prescott. That type of resume can only increase his stock.
An under-the-radar candidate could be Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich, according to Lammey. Despite having Tom Brady as his main chess piece, and a boss in head coach Bruce Arians who’s an offensive genius, Leftwich is the man credited with keeping the defending Super Bowl champion’s offense humming.
Arians has long been an avid supporter of Leftwich’s, and “was furious [in 2020] when his offensive coordinator, Byron Leftwich, did not receive any interviews to be a head coach,” noted Lammey. A Super Bowl win in 2020, and another strong run at a championship in 2021, could propel Leftwich up the ladder of interest.
The wild card in any talk about Fangio losing his job is a possible 2021 playoff berth.
Broncos’ fans may cringe at that thought, but the AFC West crown, and a Wild Card qualifier, are definitely still on the table. Parity has allowed the inconsistent Broncos (5-5) to actually stay in the hunt.
There are seven games left in the 2021 season, and it’s not out of the realm of possibility that the Broncos could right the ship and actually save Fangio’s job. Everything is still right in front of Denver, in the division and in the Wild Card race. The Broncos still have five of their six division games coming up in the final stretch of the 2021 regular season. It is then that the team will have a better idea of what they have — and whether the players care about turning around the season, and saving their coach’s job.
The Broncos still have to face the first-place Kansas City Chiefs (6-4) twice, the Chargers (5-4) twice, and the Las Vegas Raiders (5-4) once more. So, in an unlikely scenario, Fangio’s future could still be bright in Denver.
Follow Tony Williams on Twitter: @TBone8